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Business and Business Ethics



I came to NYU-Stern School of Business for a one year visit in 2011. I decided to stay because I discovered that a little moral psychology can go a long way in business, particularly in research on business ethics. The field of business ethics orignated in the 1970s when a few philosophers began teaching courses in business schools. It is important to raise philosophical questions about the conduct of business. But my goal is more pragmatic: How can businesses that want to improve their ethical culture and ethical performance do so? That is a question on which social psychologists and scholars of organizational behavior can be very helpful.


Unfortunately, the research that could be used to help businesses is locked away in academic journals -- locked away behind a paywall in most cases, and also hidden behind academic language. Yes, some of it gets written up in the business press, but these articles are mixed in with articles by and about business "gurus" whose ideas are not based on research. There's just too much advice out there for businesspeople to judge what is reliable, rather than what is fashionable. What was needed was a one-stop site at which business leaders, managers, and ethics and compliance officers can quickly get up to speed on the best and most relevant research on how to improve ethical behavior. What was needed was the website:


My main project since arriving at NYU-Stern has been the creation of this site, in collaboration with most of the leading researchers on ethics in organizations. I also teach the Professional Responsibility course at Stern, and have been thinking and writing about the role that business schools can play in teaching ethics and fostering ethical leadership. I'm also continuing to study "hive psychology" and the ways that companies create (or fail to create) a mindset of "one for all, all for one." Companies that can activate this mindset (by creating a high-trust long-term-focused organization) will greatly raise efficiency, reduce recruiting and retention costs, and lower risks of litigation and ethical meltdowns.


Here is my talk in the Authors@Google series, on Hive Psychology and its relevance to business:




Here is a more recent talk, at the American Enterprise Institute, at a session with the Dalai Lama, on capitalism. I told "three stories about capitalism," and linked them to the culture war over capitalism. (The Dalai Lama had previously expressed very negative views about capitalism, but as a result of the two-day event appeared to be changing his views). My talk begins at 47:22, and The Dalai Lama's comments end at 1:05:50.




Here are a few essays I've written applying moral psychology and social psychology to business



Kluver, J., Frazier, R., & Haidt, J. (2014). Behavioral ethics for Homo economicus, Homo heuristicus, and Homo duplex.  Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 123, 150-158. [Link]

  Haidt, J. (2014). Can you teach businessmen to be ethical? Washington Post, 1/13/14.
  Haidt, J. (2014) Wonderful vs. Wonder-Free Companies. Huffington Post 3/5/2014.

Here are a few essays in the business press about me and/or

I sometimes give talks on business ethics, ethical leadership, ethical systems design, and happiness at work. Here is my page at Washington Speakers Bureau.

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Last Updated Sept 2, 2014